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This article is an excerpt from the Shortform book guide to "Psycho-Cybernetics" by Maxwell Maltz. Shortform has the world's best summaries and analyses of books you should be reading.

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What does it mean to live authentically? How can choosing authenticity help you better cope with life challenges and achieve your goals?

The more authentic you are, the more successful you feel. Being authentic frees up energy to deal effectively and appropriately with your environment, respond to situations spontaneously, express yourself confidently, and choose and reach goals that satisfy you. 

Here is how authenticity can make you feel and become more successful plus some suggestions on how to live more authentically.

Why Authenticity Makes You Feel More Successful

Some psychologists argue that authenticity (the ability to express who you really are) is essential to your overall sense of wellbeing. Studies reveal that authentic people are generally happier than inauthentic people. For example they:

  • Have higher self-esteem
  • Have better relationships 
  • Feel more satisfied
  • Have lower stress levels
  • Experience more positive emotions

Psychologists break authenticity down into three components: how well you know and understand yourself, how well your behavior reflects your true feelings, and how often you change your behavior to meet external expectations. The more self-aware you are on these three fronts, the more you can understand your motivations and assess whether or not you’re acting authentically.

Every human being is unique, inherently valuable, and always evolving. You’re not inferior to anyone. You’re not superior to anyone. You are simply you, and you are good enough. A unique and successful personality is a sign that you’ve accepted yourself as you are, figured out what brings you genuine satisfaction, and that you proactively pursue experiences that make you feel satisfied.

How to Live More Authentically

Shame and vulnerability expert Brené Brown says that inauthentic behaviors result from feelings of fear and shame. In The Power of Vulnerability, Brown argues that you’re more likely to engage in authentic behavior when you accept that you’re inherently worthy, choose to share your feelings of shame, and allow your vulnerability to be a sign of strength, not weakness. Her suggestions to help you develop a better sense of self-worth and live authentically include:

Letting go of other people’s expectations: Be willing to say no to things you don’t want to do without worrying about what others will think of you. For example, if there are certain social situations you get invited to that you find boring, you should feel free to say no without worrying that your friends will feel hurt or upset by your absence.

Choosing to focus on self-compassion instead of perfectionism: Practice mindfulness so that you can catch yourself when you start to berate yourself for making a mistake. Make the conscious effort to be kind to yourself more often, but particularly when you judge yourself for making mistakes or acting inappropriately. For example, if you routinely obsess over conversations you’ve had with others, make an effort to stop this self-analysis and instead do something that enhances your sense of wellbeing, like taking a relaxing bath or reading a good book.

Detaching yourself from self-doubt by focusing on what you care about: Think about what’s important to you and invest your time in creating more fulfilling experiences in your life. The more you focus on what’s satisfying to you, the less attention you’ll give to thoughts that undermine your sense of self-worth.

Creating outlets for emotional expression: Play with different forms of self-expression to express and release any negative emotions you feel. Choose an activity that works with your personality to vent your emotions—choose anything from journaling to taking martial arts lessons.

Give up your inhibitions and accept that you’ll never be perfect: Be aware of when you’re limiting your joy due to your fear of failure or what others think of you. Above all, remember that how you feel about yourself is more important than how others think of you.

How to Live Authentically: The Case for Being Yourself

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Here's what you'll find in our full Psycho-Cybernetics summary :

  • How to program your mind in the same way you’d program a machine
  • How your self-image and patterns of thinking impact everything you do
  • Five methods you can use to improve self-image and create success

Darya Sinusoid

Darya’s love for reading started with fantasy novels (The LOTR trilogy is still her all-time-favorite). Growing up, however, she found herself transitioning to non-fiction, psychological, and self-help books. She has a degree in Psychology and a deep passion for the subject. She likes reading research-informed books that distill the workings of the human brain/mind/consciousness and thinking of ways to apply the insights to her own life. Some of her favorites include Thinking, Fast and Slow, How We Decide, and The Wisdom of the Enneagram.

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